The number of barristers who have been authorised to conduct litigation is gradually increasing although this is still lower than expected, the Bar Standards Board has said in its annual report.

Since the BSB first permitted barristers to conduct litigation in January 2014, 214 barristers have been authorised. By November last year, the figure was 129.

The board noted that the Bar Council is continuing to promote the new litigation rules amongst the profession.

‘Widening the pool of lawyers able to perform an activity traditionally reserved for solicitors, represents a significant opening up of the market,’ the BSB said. ‘It gives consumers more choice and the possibility of one legal professional being able to fulfil all of its legal requirements.’

Meanwhile the BSB said that the planned launch date for its alternative business structures, which was due on 1 June 2016, has been delayed by a few months.

This comes after the go-live date for entity authorisation was also delayed because the process of preparing the application to the BSB took longer than intended.

‘There were a number of complex issues to resolve in order to ensure that we have sufficient regulatory powers should we need to “step in” and take over an entity in order to protect its clients.

‘Another issue involved seeking the permission in the Administrative Court in relation to possible appeals against entity authorisation,’ it said. 

Commenting on the report, Vanessa Davies (pictured), director general of the BSB, said: ‘The profession faces imminent challenges with the legal aid cuts and rising numbers of litigants in person. These challenges require a workforce of highly skilled and resourceful barristers who can adapt to change to ensure the long-term health of the profession.

‘We believe the steps we are taking now to reform education and training and continuing professional development will stand the profession in good stead for the future.

‘We are at a critical stage of significant reform in an ever-changing legal marketplace and our regulation has to adapt with it.’